I live about ten miles from where George Floyd was killed in south Minneapolis. I am familiar with the storefront where three cops needlessly restrained George to his death. I know the areas that were hit with the rioting of affected people. People who feel stuck in a system that has proven itself consistently unfair. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “rioting is the language of the unheard”.
As Rage Against the Machine paraphrased it, “Rioting is the rhyming of the unheard”. I think rhyming, as in the present rhyming with the past, is what we are seeing. My span of social consciousness started around the time of the Rodney King beating. The video circulating with the officer on George’s neck flashes me back to that video of the officers taking turns with nightsticks, brutalizing Mr. King for fun. Kneeling on a guy’s neck…for fun.
These incidents I make my blood boil. I start recalling other recent incidents: the Philandro Castile and Jamar Clark shootings in particular. Incidents seem to fall into two groups, a scared, unsure officer or some form of a “good old boys” club. While many argue there are a few bad apples for Minneapolis cops, things feel way too systemic. There are patterns in how individuals are treated, there are patterns in perception, there are patterns in cruelty.
There has for a long while been a tension in Minneapolis. You can feel it. It’s as though there are groups of people trying to function across a divide. A segregation of sorts. Urban and suburban, uptown and downtown, east Lake Street and West Lake Street, gentrification and degradation.
The urban economic and social divide in the Twin Cities is exacerbated by skin color. The ego of more affluent, middle class and above Minnesotans might have played into it. Our suburbs are often dubbed some of the best places to live in the US and Minnesotans are so “Minnesota nice”. We have been resting on those accolades and not taking the time to come to terms that there is a racial divide.
While the Twin Cities is far from the only city with racial issues, I have found that the other places I’ve lived (California and Maryland/Washington DC) the divide is much less pronounced. Or maybe it just seems that there is at least a higher percentage of people of color in professional positions? Perhaps there is also greater diversity in poverty in these other places?
Regardless, it is time for the Twin Cities area to square with the fact that there’s a serious problem that falls along a racial divide. We can no longer tolerate such atrocious behavior from our law enforcement. The cycle needs to be broken. The local PDs need a significant purging of personnel at all levels and the whole system needs to be remade. It may even need to go so far as busting up the good old boys police fraternity/unions. Citizen panels with legitimate power need to be included in oversight and the penalties of bigoted policing need to be clear and severe.
While I want to point the finger in anger, I must also realize that I need to get better. I need to be able to empathize and find ways to narrow the divide wherever possible. One thing more local to me that I do notice is the lack of diversity at my workplace. All of the people of color are hourly/non-exempt. Granted I do work in a nerdy engineering company, there’s no reason we can’t try to find well qualified people of color (and women) for professional positions. I especially feel this as my workplace laid off one of our female engineers and another, my work wife of sorts, left for another position.
At the end of the day it will take everyone’s effort work through this tough period. The more we try to understand and help each other the more we can heal.